Constellate [on Merely A Thought Monday]

constellation poem copy

Just outside our favorite island gem, Fair Isle Books, is this poem by former Wisconsin poet Laureate, Bruce Dethlefsen. We have stopped at the shop more than once and reread the poem.

our lonely stars though bright
and strong will quickly fade

unless we string the stars
together   choose illumination
then in constellation hope is ours

bring on another day
sing light in common song
~constellation by bruce dethlefsen

It is a lovely poem and captures perfectly how we now see our work on this island. In our short tenure it has become abundantly clear that the people in our sphere most often work as “islands.” Islands on island. That is, although very well intended, few actually recognize the impact of their actions (or inaction) on others. It is part of the evolutionary dna of the place. Everyone works multiple jobs. Divisions and territory define the island arts organizations.

I have long held (and experienced again and again) that the arts cannot thrive in a community until the artists turn to a common center, recognize a shared purpose, and realize that one cannot thrive without the other. Thriving is a team sport. If one theatre creates a large audience then it creates audience for all. If one painter sells a painting, a market is created for all. Reaching into the common space, facilitating shared experience, is what art is meant to do.

If an arts community falls into the mistaken notion that its members compete for limited resources, they will inevitably define themselves by their limitation.  The center turns to a battle ground and the art is diminished. Dog-eat-dog has no place in the sacred space of art.

It is why we visit the poem. The necessary guide star is already here. “Our lonely stars though bright will quickly fade unless we string the stars together – choose illumination – then in constellation hope is ours.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CONSTELLATION

 

schoolhouse beach k&d website box copy

Face Your Giant [It’s Flawed Cartoon Wednesday]

A spot of humor to get you over the hump from studio melange.

“I love the duck!” Kerri said.

“It’s not a duck!” I wrinkled my nose. “It’s the golden goose!”

“It’s a duck,” she said. “And I love it.”

I have no real explanation for this odd Flawed Cartoon so don’t ask. I can only offer that I’m generally fascinated by that-thing-in-people that says, “stand your ground” even when the flag they plant will cause them great harm. Smoking, for instance. Insisting, “I’m not creative!” Arguments for stagnation, as in, “But we’ve always done it this way!” “Argue for your limitations,” Richard Bach wrote, “and, sure enough, they are yours.” Imagined giants.

I’m also generally in awe of that-thing-in-people that says “stand your ground” even when faced with a real giant. Remember 1989, Tianamen Square, tanks and the man who stood his ground? March For Our Lives. #MeToo. Real giants come in many forms. So do Jacks.

This Flawed Cartoon cuts both ways.

The only other thing I can offer is this: it’s a golden goose. There is no duck in Jack and the Beanstalk. Read the story.

Kerri just looked over my shoulder and said, “Duck.”

FACE YOUR GIANT reminder/merchandise

society 6 info jpeg copy

2beanstalk duck SHOWER CURTAIN copy 2

a shower curtain!

face your giant IPHONE CASE copy

beanstalk duck IPHONE CASE copy

phone cases

 

beanstalk FACE YOUR GIANT LEGGINGS copy

‘face your giant’ LEGGINGS

beanstalk FACE YOUR GIANT BEACH TOWEL copy

BEACH TOWELS

read Kerri’s blog post about GIANTS

melange button jpeg copy

kerrianddavid.com

face your giant ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

 

 

 

Peel Off The Laminate

An illustration from my children's book, LUCY AND THE WATERFOX

An illustration from my children’s book, LUCY AND THE WATERFOX

Last week in a fit of frustration I climbed a ladder and scraped the damaged paint off the kitchen ceiling. The paint was compromised a few years ago and needed repair. The peeling paint was on my summer list of things to fix but we were traveling most of the summer. Autumn arrived and the to-do list remained. Scraping and sanding always leads to the necessity of new paint and Kerri said, “If you paint the ceiling it will make the walls look dingy. We better paint the walls, too.”

So, standing in the kitchen, fists filled with paint chips, discussing color possibilities, we realized that all of our color choices were defined by the fading yellow of the ancient kitchen countertop. The counter was at least 50 years old, laminate, and held in place by some well-placed packing tape. We’ve talked often of the day in some distant future when we could afford to replace it and that day seemed very far away.

In that moment, hands filled with paint chip possibilities, we realized that the countertop had became a metaphor. We were defining our choices based on a limitation. Or, said another way, we were limiting our possibilities based on our belief in an obstacle; what we could or could not do.

How often is that the case? What self-imposed limit defines the choices we see? How often do we unwittingly shrink our field of possibility? How often do we allow the things we don’t want to define our actions?

It took less than 30 minutes to pull off the old laminate, break it into pieces, bag it, and get it out of the house. As I wrote in an earlier post, the spontaneous kitchen remodel began when we realized we had the power to remove the limit. We had the capacity to make choices based upon a different set of criteria. Before the spontaneous remodel we believed we couldn’t afford to change the kitchen countertops. The moment of paint-chip revelation made us understand that we couldn’t afford not to change them.

Life is great at applying belief-laminate to us: what we think we can and cannot do. Something profound happens when, in a moment, we understand that we are capable of challenging the limit, of pulling off the laminate, of being forced to step into a greater field of possibility (known from henceforth as the “Now What?”)

It is worth noting that our new countertop, the old plywood support and made exceptionally beautiful with chalk paint and wax, has transformed our kitchen and our actions. We hang out in the kitchen. The colors we are considering using for paint are now based on what we want to create and not on what needs to go with the old yellow laminate.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

Go here (Leanpub) for all digital forms of The Seer.

Yoga.ForwardFoldOr, for kicks, go here for Fine Art Prints (and other stuff) of my paintings.

 

Aim For The Field

An illustration from my children's book, Play To Play

An illustration from my children’s book, Play To Play

Lately, Saul the Tai Chi master has been much in my thoughts. It is now September and it has been a year since he taught me a lesson that has become the new mantra of my life: orient to your own concern. Actually, he said that I should look beyond my opponent into the field of possibilities and orient to my own concern. “In this way,” he instructed, “you will no longer have an opponent.” He used the word “opponent” loosely. Any limitation or form of internal resistance is the opponent.

Beyond the opponent is a wide-open field of possibilities.

In the intervening year I have learned that I have been both my greatest opponent and the one who can look into the field of possibilities. Isn’t this true of all people? All stories worth telling (and hearing) are ultimately tales of transcending the inner opponent. If you need help identifying your personal mythic journey simply listen to the areas in life in which you say to yourself, “I can’t.” In that place you will find your opponent. You will also be surprised to find that your inner opponent is most often an orientation to other people’s concern; the fear of what others might think is a mighty inner-monster creator.

I’ve also learned that Saul’s lesson has come to me in many forms throughout the course of my life. For instance, many years ago I directed plays and, because I am also a visual artist, I was often in the position of designing the sets as well. With great love and humor, another terrific mentor watched as I struggled with my dual role. He gently showed me that I was orienting my designs according to the budget and construction limitations I perceived. I was working in the wrong order, asking “how” before lingering in the potential.   He told me that I needed to “Live first in the possibilities.” Design/orient according to the potential and not the limitations.

To live first in the possibilities is to walk the imagination without a leash. It is to let the imagination run wild. What is beyond your capacity to imagine? What is possible beyond the boundaries of belief? At one point in my life cell phones were science fiction. Today, they are ordinary.

Look beyond the opponent. Orient to your own concern. Imagine how life might change if instead of asking, “Can we do this?” we began by asking, “What’s possible?” And then aim for the field.

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

Go here for all digital forms of The Seer.

Yoga Series 7Go here for fine art prints of my paintings

What’s The Story

This is a very old watercolor that I called The Inner Monologue

This is a very old watercolor that I called The Inner Monologue

All the ladies were talking about how their bodies have changed with age. My body has changed, too! You’d never know it now but I used to be less than two feet tall with really pudgy knees. Kerri punched me when I offered my perspective on my body change. Apparently there is a statute of limitation for how far back in time you can go on the my-body-has-changed conversation.

When I was studying acting we were taught to write backstories for our characters. The play script was filled with clues but we learned that a character is not 3 dimensional until it has an articulated history. This was always problematic for me. I had no problem creating a backstory – that was easy – and I could justify my imagined story happenings in the script – but I couldn’t see how my imagined story led to more specific actions in the performance. If anything, the backstory got in my way. Like all young actors I got lost in the backstory, trying to “tell” it rather than pursue my clear action. Acting, like life, is about the pursuit of desire. My backstory muddied my ability to act. Acting is an art form of the present moment.

When I was teaching acting I came across the same problem. The young actors would spend hours telling me the details of their backstory which only served to diffuse their present action. They’d try to perform their history instead of pursue their current target.

The backstory was interesting but functionally useless in the present moment.

I’m finding the same challenge off the stage as I found on it. In one form or another I’ve coached a lot of people. I hear a lot of backstories. Our backstories are interesting. They do what they are meant to do: they give us identity. We spend hours and hours telling each other about our past adventures and abuses. People are storytellers, telling the story of their lives all day, everyday. Most of the storytelling concerns the past. What we did or did not do, what was done to us or justifying what we did to others. Most backstories are about limitation. Most backstories have a root in fear that show up as “reasons why I can’t” stories. Do you remember the famous Richard Bach quote? Argue for your limitations and sure enough they are yours. As interesting and informing as it is, very little of the backstory is functionally useful in the present moment. I don’t want the person I was a decade ago defining the choices I make today.

It’s become something of a mantra for me, something I find myself writing or saying a lot: The actions we need to take are usually very simple. The story we wrap around them make them difficult. What’s the story?

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

Go here for fine art prints of my paintings:

This painting is called Icarus.

This painting is called Icarus.

Step Into The Pool

From my children’s book, “Lucy & The Waterfox.” This is what Lucy looks like when she gives up her dream.

Do you remember this phrase from Richard Bach: Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they are yours. I am a notorious eavesdropper and today, listening to the conversations, I think all of life is one long argument for limitations.

The wicked thing about arguing for limitations (I think to myself while eavesdropping) is that we rarely recognize that we are doing it. For instance, blaming others for our misery is actually an argument for limitation. Blaming is an abdication of responsibility, an investment in the notion that, “I can do nothing about that which bothers me.” Blame is an assignment of potency to everyone but your self.

I think all things worth knowing are paradoxical. Arguments for limitation are double-edged because they often also mark the boundary between safe and not safe. An argument for a limitation often looks on the surface to be a defense of the perimeter or an argument for safety. The fulfillment of a dream usually requires a step or two beyond the perimeter and who hasn’t dipped their toe into the pool of their big dream only to pull it back and refuse to wade into it. The shore is safe and known. Stepping into the dream pool never feels safe because the depth of the water is always unknown – and no one ever knows how to swim in the dream pool until they jump in. Staying safely ensconced in Plan B is a great disguised argument for limitation. It is a disguise that will always make sense; self-imposed limitations always make rational sense.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

Go here for hard copies

Listen Beyond The Wall

788. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Megan told me that there are cultures that never talk about disease. They believe that the spoken word has power so rather than talk about the disease they speak about the road to health. Or, they assume health and speak about it in the present tense, thus creating health.

We walk a path defined by our assumptions. We see what we expect to see. We see what we believe. When we talk about not being creative or not being good enough, that is what we reinforce. That is what we assume so that is what we create. Or that is what we create so that is the role we assume.

I learned again today (apparently a lesson with no stickiness) assumptions are tricky because they are hard to see. Assumptions are the rules for the game we play, they are the guidelines for the roles we believe we must fulfill. At the base of every miscommunication is a dueling set of assumptions.

People withhold their voices because they assume they know how others will perceive what they say. “I don’t want you to take this the wrong way,” is a statement steeped in assumption. Can you ever know how others will hear what you say? People diminish their truth because they believe they know how others will react. Can we ever know?

Assumptions are scary to challenge because they orient us. We locate ourselves in the world through the assumptions we make. It takes some fortitude to suspend our assumptions. It takes a desire to reach beyond what we think we know. The skill of listening is really about hearing beyond the noise-wall of our assumptions.

I can say, “I love you” and you will hear that I am cold. You can say, “I want to be near you” and I will hear that you are pushing me away. This is the power of assumption. We crush what is dear when wrangling with our assumptions and not what was actually intended. And so the story goes.

The spoken word has power. The internal monologue has power. When Richard Bach wrote, “Argue for your limitations and sure enough they are yours,” he was writing about assumptions. He was writing about the power of the word. Implied in his caution is the flipside of the coin: argue for your liberation and sure enough it is yours. The message is the same: flow happens when we can see and step beyond our assumptions.

What Do You Feed Your Mind?

743. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I found a document in my files labeled, “Prompts.” I opened it to find out what it was. This is what I found:

The mind becomes powerful with language. What we put into it becomes important
Because
In order to create, we start thinking. What do you feed your mind?

Watch your thought. The energy of your thought goes somewhere
So,
Being ‘out of your mind’ takes on a whole new meaning.

A brain opens; thoughts fly free.
Think on that the next time you ask yourself:
“Where did that thought come from?”

I create this perspective so it must also create me.
Don’t you want to know
Where is the outer limit of this thing called “awareness?”

The perspective we choose is the story we tell.
Likewise,
Every thought impacts everyone all the time. It’s a cycle. It’s a ripple. We are constantly in a cycle of re-creation (do you know it?)

“Paradox is hard for the intellect to deal with,”
I said to no one in particular,
“However, Intuition expects paradox.”

The thought that tells me I am stupid is secondary pain,
It follows
After I trip or say the wrong thing (initial pain).

Soul thinks wide and deep thoughts
And does not understand Limitations.
So think soul thoughts and act accordingly.

Move Beyond Belief

717. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Judy (She-Whom-I Revere) liked my post about geese and sent this addition to me: the collective pronouns for geese are: ‘blizzard’, ‘chevron’, ‘knot’, ‘plump’ and ‘string’ of geese. I agree with Judy, I think I like ‘blizzard’ the best. Someday in idle party chat I would like to say, “Recently, I was caught in a blizzard of geese!” I would have been confused by the pronoun ‘blizzard’ as it applies to geese had I not seen them en masse the other day. My experience opened my eyes to wonder.

Words have the capacity to both imprison us and to set us free. Words are used in an attempt to describe the indescribable as the poems of Rumi attempt to do, or they can box us in, cage us in a dedication of limitation. Daily in my coaching practice I hear some variation of “I can’t.”

Can and Can’t are two very powerful words because both have deep roots in imagination. One reaches while the other rejects. One steps toward the unknown while the other resists movement. Take a look around your home or your city. Everything you see or touch, turn-on or plug-in began with an imagining and an action all wrapped in the big arms of “I can….” The important thing to note about both Can and Can’t is that they have a counterintuitive association with belief. Can’t is firmly vested in it’s belief. Can’t leads with belief. The lack of belief in possibility is a firm belief in impossibility. Can has no need for belief. Can moves without belief. Can leads with exploration and discovery; belief, for Can, comes second, after the doing is done.

The same rule applies to almost all powerful words: those that imprison us are planted firmly in belief; they are arguments for limitation. Those words that liberate our imaginations are vested in possibility and exploration; for words like “can,” “imagine,” and “discovery,” belief is not necessary. Belief follows; belief comes second after experience and wonder.

See The Elegance

659. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Bryan and I talked tonight about the elegance of design. He told me that many years ago he became interested in the Golden Mean, which led him to research the Fibonacci sequence, which led to an interest in eclipses. He became fascinated by the simple elegance and paradox of astronomer’s capacity to precisely determine when an eclipse would happen and the impossibility (due to weather) of predicting if we would be able to see it. The Golden Mean and the Fibonacci sequence are simple equations that, when replicated, maintain the integrity of design throughout very complex structures and calculations. They are fractals. Much of classic architecture is based solely on the Golden Mean. Much of what you will learn in contemporary art school about composition is based on the Golden Mean.

Our physical bodies are complex structures based on a simple cell design. We are at the same time miracles of complexity and simplicity; more space than solid, more water than mineral, reducible to a small pile of dust and yet expansive beyond all imagining. We are elegant in our design, as nature only designs elegant forms from the same simple notion and very simple (yet complex) building blocks.

Our thoughts run according to the same principle. I once read a statistic that showed that we think mostly the same thoughts each day, day after day (don’t ask me how you measure such a thing….). We build our thought on a few replicable principles and then go holographic with them. A few simple assumptions will lock you in prison or set you free. Check out the pattern of the story you tell yourself each day. Are you locking yourself in or opening the cage? I realized years ago that the epicenter of my coaching work – or any other form my whacky work takes – was really about story change. I often say this to groups: change your story and you will change your world. They mostly respond, “It can’t be that easy!” or “Pie in the sky!” I didn’t say it would be easy – we are after all deeply invested in our stories; we are great fighters for our limitations. The wrong assumption is that it need be complex. We are elegant in our design, even down to our repetitive thoughts. Change the simplicity and you will some day be capable of manifesting an entirely new soaring cathedral of thought.